5 min

FlashArray Unified Block and File Platform allows block storage and file storage to be deployed simultaneously on the same FlashArray.

File storage is growing rapidly right now, mainly because of the increase in unstructured data. This is growing much faster than structured data found in databases, for example. For that, organizations traditionally deploy block storage. Within the world of Pure, which is roughly divided into FlashArrays and FlashBlades, that means deploying FlashArray (//X or //C, depending on whether it’s Tier 1 or Tier 2 storage). However, with the growth in unstructured data, there is also increasing demand for file storage within this part of Pure’s portfolio. With the announcement of the FlashArray Unified Block and File Platform (from here on Unified Platform for readability), Pure intends to start offering this.

In itself, offering block and file storage on a single array is not necessarily new. Up until now, however, it has been a real headache. This often meant putting file storage on top of block storage, or vice versa. Then, as the upper layer, you are always bound by the restrictions of the lower layer.

Pure does it differently

To solve this, you can go the route that HPE has recently chosen and offer hardware on which you can run one or the other and then manage it centrally. At Pure, however, they go a bit further. “We have no desire to offer separate environments,” Remko Deenik points out. He is Technical Director Europe at Pure Storage. We spoke with him just before the launch of the new platform. Indeed, the Unified Platform makes it possible to offer block and file storage simultaneously on a single FlashArray. To put it in the vernacular of our business, there is native support for both file and block storage (and VMs).

With the Unified Platform, Pure solves quite a few challenges associated with providing file and block storage at the same time, we hear from Deenik. If you build file on top of block or vice versa, you always run into problems. First of all, it’s a complex architecture that requires a lot of management. In addition, in the case of VMs, for example, it is also not possible to take a snapshot of a single VM, but you often have to take snapshots of all VMs. Furthermore, chances are that you cannot use the full available capacity and you have challenges if you want to scale up.

Best of both worlds

So with the Unified Platform, Pure is not offering a two-stream solution, but an actual integration of file and block storage protocols into a single solution. As usual, this is centrally controlled by the Purity software. This eliminates the need for you to do your own layout of your array. “You don’t have to specify yourself what you want to have where,” Deenik says. All you have to do is indicate what file storage is and what block storage is; the software takes care of the rest. You make use of a so-called global storage pool.

Deenik also promises that there are no restrictions for either type of storage. So you can use them as you would use each type separately. The limitations we talked about above are no longer there. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter for management whether you park VMs in block or file, and everything is written away very efficiently. Deduplication is done across both storage types. That is, only one version of a file remains even if it is in both file and block. Finally, a separate part of today’s announcement is that Pure will also deploy file storage to offer NFS datastores within VMware, thus staying away from iSCSI and FC.

Benefits of Pure Storage FlashArray Unified Block and File Platform

All in all, the announcement Pure is making today is a pretty fundamental one. By this we mean that it is not a new service or an additional FlashArray. It is actually an entirely new (multi-protocol) architecture for the FlashArray line. The benefits to customers of this new architecture, by the way, are significant, according to Deenik. He talks about a management burden that is 62 percent lower than using the two storage types on top of each other. In addition, the TCO is also no less than 58 percent lower.

We have not seen the calculations for this, so we cannot 100 percent guarantee that they are correct. However, they were determined by an independent party, Enterprise Strategy Group. In any case, it is not something Pure itself “made up,” that much is certain. Enterprise Strategy Group relies on customer interviews, product walkthroughs and its own broad insights into the storage industry.

That there are big gains to be made by offering file and block storage physically in a single array on the one hand, while on the other hand managing it no more complex than it was when using a single storage type, seems like a no-brainer to us. If only because it removes an entire layer in terms of management. You always had to manage both block and file; now you do that centrally from Purity. In addition, everything concerning the various policies that organizations have with regard to their storage is also unified. You no longer have to arrange and manage that separately.

True to Pure’s evergreen promise, Unified Storage will be available for all FlashArrays at customers’ sites, both on the //X and //C lines.

Simplicity Rules

So with the announcement of the Unified Platform for FlashArray, Pure now offers two types of products with corresponding services, both of them unifying multiple storage types: FlashArray merges file and block storage, FlashBlade does the same but for file and object (UFFO). Deenik doesn’t see any significant overlap between the file component of the two lines. The use cases for FlashArray and FlashBlade are fundamentally different and will remain so for the time being. As an example, he points to the extensive support for VMs on FlashArray, because of the applications that run there. In these environments it’s about things like latency and iops. FlashBlade is primarily a scale-out platform, where it’s mostly about amount of data and its scalability.

Deenik ultimately sees today’s announcement as a simplification of the offering. That in itself is pretty clever. Pure has now been around for more than 10 years and still only has two products/platforms. According to Deenik, the ambition also remains to keep innovating especially in the area of simplification. “Pure’s motto these days is Uncomplicate Data Storage. Forever for a reason,” he concludes. This is an example of that motto. We are no doubt going to hear more about these ambitions during Pure Storage Accelerate in June, which we will be attending.

Also read: Pure Storage unveils FlashBlade//E for unstructured data storage